Given that North Texas Soccer Club is a professional development club for FC Dallas, there was always going to be a level of inconsistency in the club’s line up week to week. MLS players are sent down to get fit or stay sharp and Academy players come up to push their progression. Yet North Texas SC has consistently performed at the top of the league.
If there’s been one overwhelmingly consistent factor for North Texas this season, it’s the clear front runner for USL League One Most Valuable Player, Arturo Rodriguez.
“He’s always there for us,” North Texas Head Coach Eric Quill said of his playmaker. “He’s the guy, at home or when we’re on the road, that everyone looks for.”
Of that, there is no question. Rodriguez has been named to the USL-1 Team of the Week nine times in 28 weeks. That’s one out of three games in essence. He was also USL Player of the Month for May.
With one game left to play, a cursory glance at the USL-1 stats show the massive influence of Rodriguez as he leads the league in assists with eight, two ahead of second place, and in chances created with 71, the latter an astounding 20 chances created ahead of the next best facilitator in the league.
And the 20-year-old Rodriguez is doing it while sitting 6th on the USL-1 total passes chart, 254 passes less than the league leader. So there’s an efficiency to his game too.
Consider that in the first part of the season, North Texas’ Ricardo Pepi was the runaway goal-scoring leader in USL with seven goals in his first six games before he was quickly snapped up as a Homegrown by FC Dallas.
But North Texas SC didn’t miss a beat, Rodriguez kept passing – with Ronaldo Damus the primary beneficiary instead – and now Damus is the runaway scoring leader with 16 goals. Heck, Pepi’s current nine-goal tally is good for a tie for fourth in the league and he hardly plays for NTX anymore.
According to our sources, Rodriguez is doing all this work on what amounts to a semi-pro contract as Rodriguez was out of pro soccer for a couple of seasons following his graduation from the FCD Academy in the summer of 2017.
“[His teammates] see he’s there and they know he will be there for them,” Quill continued. “They feed off him. He has a presence that calms everyone down. Whether it’s a timely goal or an assist. He just does everything for us.” Everything indeed.
Let’s dig into the numbers a little more.
Rodriguez has played in all 27 of NTXSC’s games with just one sub appearance for 2,331 total minutes played. That’s over 450 minutes more than the next guy on the team. Simple math says that’s five games more played than anyone else in the side.
Rodriguez’s seven goals of his own are good for tenth in USL-1 and rank fourth among the league’s midfielders as well as making him North Texas’ third-leading goal scorer behind Damus and Pepi.
Those seven goals have come on only 32 shots too. That’s a 4.6 shots per goal rate, the same conversion rate and FCD’s Zdenek “Cobra” Ondrask.
Rodriguez’s nine assists, in addition to leading USL-1, are more than his next three North Texas teammates combined.
A-Rod’s league-leading 71 chances created are an amazing 39 ahead of the number two North Texas man, his younger brother David Rodriguez. That’s 1.4 more chances created per game for the older Rodriguez.
Game in and game out, Rodriguez is producing some astounding offensive stats. “It’s his consistent effectiveness that makes him worthy of the MVP,” Quill said.
You better believe all that creation leads to attention from the opposition. 55 fouls drawn, that’s over two per game and just half a foul per game less than Paxton Pomykal, who ranks in the MLS top 10 in fouls suffered, draws with FC Dallas. Rodriguez is keeping his relative cool while being hacked with just four yellow cards himself.
But Rodriguez isn’t just an offensive threat, he’s a two-way player. Despite playing as a 10 and winger, he leads both USL-1 in both overall tackles and tackles won. His totals of 89 and 60 in those two categories are more than double the second-best North Texas tackler, Alfusainey Jatta.
How about Duels? That’s a pivotal stat in the modern game and in a high press like North Texas runs. Yup. Rodriguez leads USL-1 in both categories with 419 overall duals and 211 duals won. That’s miles ahead of his best teammate Jatta, for example, who’s on 261 and 143.
And one final stat that will please the old school fan, Rodriguez “gets stuck in” as his 45 fouls committed leads North Texas as well. That’s just 4 ahead of NTX hard man Jatta and is a ton of grit from a creative player.
Added on top of all these pure stats there’s the flare, the creativity, and the wonderful skill. Like this Goal of the Week winner from week 25 and sure-fire Goal of the Year candidate.
North Texas SC wraps up the regular season on Friday at FC Tucson. Kickoff is scheduled for 9:30 pm CT at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson. You can catch the game on ESPN+ and see how good Arturo Rodriguez is for yourself.
Rodriguez is likely headed for a bigger stage this winter, the only question is where. He might not be around North Texas for long.
Without Arturo Rodriguez, would North Texas Soccer Club be sitting atop the USL-1 table basking in the glow of the first-ever USL-1 Regular Season title? Coach Quill knows the answer.
“No. We would not.”